OCMA to fete man behind the Ferus Gang

Irving Blum, 82, whose L.A. gallery was a springboard for the careers of Warhol, Lichtenstein and other Pop Art icons, will be the guest of honor at its 25th Art of Dining Gala in Laguna Beach.

May 31, 2012|By Jenny Stockdale, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • The Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles.
The Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles.

The Orange County Museum of Art this weekend will honor Irving Blum, legendary director of the former Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles that launched the Pop Art movement's most famous names, for a lifetime of influence on the Southern California art scene.

"The motivation for buying art should be rooted in the passion between you and the picture," Blum said in an interview.

"If the picture becomes valuable, that's certainly a plus. But it shouldn't be your reason for wanting it."

Blum's thoughts on art appreciation stem from a unique professional palette. Having spent most of his life admiring, buying and advocating art, Blum, now 82, is known as the man who ushered 1950s and 60s Pop Art to the forefront of the contemporary art world.

On Saturday, he will be OCMA's guest of honor at its 25th Art of Dining gala at the Montage Laguna Beach resort. Nearly sold out, the annual event showcases an influential member of the art community and is part of a series commemorating OCMA's 50 years as "the oldest and boldest museum of modern and contemporary art in Southern California."


Proceeds will go toward OCMA's future exhibitions, as well as its school programming, which brings in more than 6,000 students free each year for in-depth experiences at the museum in Newport Beach.

Moving from New York to Los Angeles in 1957, Blum brought with him a network of emerging East Coast artists. His Ferus Gallery, which he ran from 1958 to 1966, became the launching pad for renowned Pop Artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Irwin and Ken Price.

These and other strapping, young, male artists later would be identified as members of "The Ferus Gang: good looking, hard living and always cool."

As seen in a collection of grainy black and white photos from that period — which event coordinators say will be a visual focal point of the gala — Blum fell into that category of cool rather seamlessly. His character and connections, accented by his once jet-black buzz cut and musical English accent, stitched together a close-knit community of artists that he was humbled to foster.

"It was fascinating to learn how the Pop Art movement impacted artists and critics," Blum said, "because they fell in to two camps: those who either resented the style or admired it. But boy, was it on everybody's mind! To be responsible for that, well, it was an extraordinary thing to have done when I think about it now."

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